Posture in Worship (Issue 2.28)

It’s always hard to write the final devotional of the year – there is so much to reflect upon and also so much to look forward to after the summer.

But instead of a sappy reflection or a “Go Get ‘em” pump-you-up speech before our break, I’m going to ask for you to consider something over the summer.  The something is what our bodies say about worship when we sing.

Have you ever noticed on Sundays that there are actually people in the congregation that don’t look excited to be at church?  Have you ever noticed there are people in the choir that don’t look excited to be at church?  What is that all about?  I’ve actually seen people SITTING IN THEIR SEATS or standing WITH THEIR ARMS FOLDED when we sing “When Christ shall come, with shout of acclimation, and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!”!

So over the next couple of months as you worship in the congregation (and not from on the platform), think about how your posture and body language either reinforce or contradict the words of the songs.  For example, if the words of a song say that you “bow”, why is it you are looking up?  Even if the words call us to “fall on my knees” or “bow down”, even doing something as bowing our heads toward the ground can communicate (to ourselves, to God, and to others) an attitude of submission, repentance, and/or respect.  Or if the song says, “We lift our voices, we lift our hands, we lift our lives up to you” why do our hands stay in our pockets (or crossed in front of us)?  And if you’re not into that whole “lifting the hands” thing, wouldn’t it be better to just not sing the words?

Here’s the point – if we are singing for an audience of One – God – then to say one thing with our lips and another with our bodies makes us to be hypocrites (at best) or liars (at worst).  If we can’t do something as simple as lift a hand (when our lips say we are going to do it) or bow a head (when our lips say we are going to do it), how can we expect God (or anyone for that matter) to believe us when our lips say we “surrender all to Jesus” or “lay it all down”?  It is in the little things that integrity and character are proven, and to him who is responsible with little much is given.  Sometimes people express that they don’t feel God is present when singing takes place.  Perhaps that’s because our lips and our actions don’t agree.  Perhaps it’s because what God sees is a bunch of hypocrites who don’t do what they say they will do.

And that just ain’t a good situation to be in.  Challenge and encourage each other to be making sure your verbal and non-verbal communication agree (what’s the statistic? 75% of all communication is non-verbal?  If that’s true, God gets quite a message from some people…)

The greatest joy I have on Sunday mornings when I lead worship is seeing people’s faces reflect the words they are singing as they communicate with God.  And I have to believe that God feels the same way.  And there are plenty here who do that – look for them next week, and see the difference in worship.


A Year in Review (Issue 1.31)

Originally Written for 6/14/09

As this is the last newsletter for a couple of months, I want to share my thoughts on the past 11 months serving here at LBC.

Let me begin by saying it has been such a blessing to be your director, and I hope that you have enjoyed this past year in choir.  I have tried to stretch you in many ways, and I believe you’ve made some great strides in your musical skills.  Some key things we’ve focused on this year have been vowel formation, cut-offs, and phrasing in the music.  As I look back I see how much you’ve grown – this morning’s anthem was a great testimony to the work you’ve done.  Thank you for your had work and dedication.

We’ve also learned a lot of new music – from the Christmas cantata, to the Easter anthem with orchestra, to the numerous new anthems you’ve learned through the year.  As we enter the summer months some of those anthems may return (like this morning); we’ll also continue to pull out stuff from prior to my start here.

I’ve also worked to build a spiritual component into choir, and I hope you have found that.  These weekly devotionals are part of that, as is praying together as a group.  It is my goal and hope that you see the choir as  spiritual family of sorts.

As I look forward to the next choir year I have additional goals and ides to implement, and I hope you’ll be here to participate in those.  Know that I respect and value each of you, and I hope that you find the time absent from rehearsals refreshing, but also that it begins to build anticipation for returning together in the fall.  A date has not yet been set, but once it has we’ll make sure to announce it.

And when we do, please remember to invite others to join us.  I look forward to this time every week – it’s worshipful and fun.  And I want to share it with as many people who are willing to receive it.

Have a great summer.

What God Has Done (Issue 1.30)

Originally Written for 6/7/09

I don’t know about you, but this morning’s music really focused me on the essence of what God has done for us and how we should respond.

In love Christ died for us, and because of that we have hope of “no more tears, no more pain” because we “will rise” to live with Him eternally.

This means I shouldn’t boast in anything “but the death of Christ my God,” and I need to “sacrifice [everything] to his blood.”

Why?  Because “Love so amazing…demands my soul, my life, my all.”

I think that’s it for today – just take the time you normally spend reading the devotional and meditate on those truths.  My prayer is that these were more than emtpy words sung on a Sunday morning but that they truly are our heart’s cry.

Keeping Secrets (Issue 1.29)

Originally Written for 3/31/09

It’s hard keeping secrets, especially good ones.  Several weeks ago Melissa’s mother and sister began planning a surprise baby shower for her, which happened this afternoon.  For the past several weeks, and especially the last couple of days with everyone in town, it’s been very difficult to not slip-up and say something to ruin the surprise.  As of now, though, everyone has left the house and the plan is under way – in about 15 minutes (or, when you’re reading this, about three hours ago), Melissa should walk into a friend’s house and hear “Surprise!”

Have you ever had a secret that you wanted to share but knew you couldn’t?  Perhaps it was a promotion at work that wasn’t public yet, or an award you were going to receive, or a birthday party you had planned…  In any case, whatever the event, you had to watch what you’d say because if you said the wrong thing you’d let the “cat out of the bag” and ruin the whole thing.

Except in one area.  Too often when it comes to sharing our faith we box it up and hide it so no one knows.  How come it’s so hard to keep the “Secret of the Baby Shower” but so easy to keep the “Secret to Eternal Life and True Contentment”?  Jeremiah says, “But if I say, ‘I will not mention [God] or speak any more in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” (20:9)

I know this is a short devotional, but I’d like us to meditate on that verse some.  Why is it so easy to go to someone at work and share the most recent gossip on a colleague, but so difficult to run and share what God has taught us over the weekend?  Why is it hard to keep the secret of the sin someone’s doing but easy to keep the secret of the forgiveness offered the sinner?

Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 8:38).  When people come in contact with you do they find the spring that shoots forth living water, or do they find it shooting something else?  Maybe it’s time to begin sharing your “secret”.

Believing in – and Loving – God (Issue 1.28)

Originally Written for 5/3/09

I’m reading a book entitled Crazy Love by a pastor out in California named Francis Chan; to be honest, it’s the first I’ve ever heard of him and (obviously) the first book I’ve read by him.  I want to quote a few things he wrote in a chapter entitled “Crazy Love”:

“Recently, out of my desire to grow in my love for God, I decided to spend a few days alone with him in the woods.

“Before I left, a friend prayed, ‘God, I know how much you’ve wanted this time with Francis…’  Though I didn’t say it at the time, I secretly thought it was a heretical way to pray and that he was wrong to phrase it that way.  I was going to the woods because I wanted more of God.  But He’s God; He certainly wouldn’t want more of me!  It seemed demeaning to think that God could long for a human being.

“The more I searched the Scriptures, however, the more I realized my friend’s prayer was right on, and that my rejection to his prayer indicated how much I still doubted God’s love. My belief in God’s love was still theoretical, not a reality I lived out or experienced.” (emphasis mine)

Later on in the chapter Pastor Chan discusses the difference between loving a person for who they are versus loving a person for what they give us, and he draws the parallel to how some Christians approach God – they seem to love Him more for the gift of everlasting life than loving Him for who He is; he even goes so far as to write, “[A]n important question to ask ourselves is: Are we in love with God or just his stuff?”  It reminded me of an experience earlier this week in court where I saw a young man apologize to the judge and say “I’m sorry.”  To his apology, however, the judge looked at him and said, “I don’t believe you – you’re not sorry because your behavior doesn’t demonstrate that.  You’re sorry that you got caught and that you’re here in my court room, but you’re not sorry for what you did.”

I think that’s what Pastor Chan is referring to.

Let’s go back to the first quote, though, and look again at the section that I put in italics.  I’ve been thinking a lot about that quote this week, and I’ve been asking myself what I do that demonstrates my love to God.  Another question raised in the book by Chan was, “If we stopped believing in God right now, how would our life change?”

And when it was phrased that way, it started it hit home a little more.  I pray you and I meditate on that question a little bit this week, and then use the answer to determine our response.

Walking in Sandals (Issue 1.27)

Originally Written for 4/26/09

Today since it was hot I wore my sandals and we spent a good deal of the day outside – went to Kid Fest, Plant & See, the park, in the yard, etc.  At Plant & See I walked through lots of muddy areas to find rose bushes for Melissa, at the park I chased Chloe through the wood chips, and in the yard I helped Melissa plant a rose bush and then sat with Chloe as she played in the sand box.

Needless to say, my feet were rather dirty – except where the sandals straps were.

Now you’re probably thinking I’m going to talk about the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, and how gross that was, and how dirty their feet got, and yada-yada-yada.

But I’m not.

I’m going to talk about the straps on my sandals.  See, when I took off my sandals, you could tell where they had been – you could see the white skin that wasn’t dirty because they had been protected by the straps.  Had I worn socks and shoes my feet would have been even cleaner, since they protect a larger area of my feet.

It’s kind of an illustration for our lives as Christians.  We walk through the world every day (literally), encountering people who don’t know Christ, movies and music that do anything but glorify him, and watch TV shows that some people probably wouldn’t even admit to watching.  All these things dirty us in very real ways (remember the song, “Oh be careful little eyes/ears what you see/hear”?)  As we interact with the world, it leaves its mark on us.

Except where we’ve protected ourselves by wearing the armor of God – where we’ve pulled His word over us and given Him complete control.  Then the dirt doesn’t come in, but gets deflected out.  Just like the sand on my feet.

Which makes me wonder – do I walk through life wearing sandals, shoes, or work boots?  Sometimes, to my shame, I’m probably walking bare-foot.  And when I do, all the filth and muck gets on me and leaves a stain.  Only when I fully and regularly surrender to God can I travel protected.

Which begs the question: what am I doing to protect myself?

Or, in your sense, what are you doing to protect yourself?  Prayer?  Bible reading?  Worship?  Fellowship with other believers?  Confession?  Surrender? Faith building?

What kind of shoes are you wearing today?